I have taught African American Women's history on the university level since 2007. In Spring 2015, while teaching at the University of Oregon, I teamed with Wiki Edu to create African American Women's history course assignments that would help to increase the diversity of entries on Wikipedia by adding entries for notable African American women to the website. I entered my partnership with Wiki Edu feeling a great deal of pedagogical and intellectual ambivalence. As a trained professional historian and an experienced teacher, I do not agree wholeheartedly with the methods of Wikipedia writing nor with the organization's assumptions about what students have already mastered, nor Wikipedia's expressed and applied concepts of "neutrality" and "research," especially as they relate to my discipline. Nonetheless, I applaud efforts being made by Wikipedia and especially by the Wiki Edu staff to diversify entries published on Wikipedia.
My job as a historian is to find and explain meaning in events of the past, not to simply report them. Similarly part of my job as a professor of history is to teach my students how to think critically about the past. In both cases, my students and I must embrace the responsibility of reading scholarly writing, examining primary source documents, and developing our own written arguments and supporting these arguments with evidence. This is hard work. It requires advanced reading and comprehension skills. It requires research skills. It requires sophisticated writing skills. It requires all involved to take positions and make judgements and to back these up with evidence. But it also demands that we interrogate personal biases, and weed out assumptions and opinions. It's difficult work. It's delicate work. It's work that most students have no idea they will engage in when they first enter the classroom. Thankfully, it is also work that does not end when the semester ends, but will for at least some of them will continue in various ways, shapes, and forms for a lifetime.
Adding a major new element to any class is challenging and the results are both imperfect and a works-in-progress, both by my standards and because of the nature of the beast that is Wikipedia. Nonetheless, I am proud of my students' efforts and contributions and look forward to seeing the list of African American women whose achievements are documented on Wikipedia grow.
Inez Clough (1873-1933)--stage and film actress
Marie Couvent (c. 1757 – June 28, 1837)--free woman of color in New Orleans and chief benefactor of Institute Catholique, a school for free children of color in the city.
Caroline Hunter (1946-)--anti-apartheid activist and organizer of a campaign to boycott Polaroid because of their involvement in apartheid era South Africa.
Ruth Janetta Temple (1892-1984) --Los Angeles area health care activist
Dovie Thurman (1946-1997)--Chicago-based welfare rights activist